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JM Finn's Royden: Why I push the boundaries, in finance and in life

JM Finn's Royden: Why I push the boundaries, in finance and in life

Sir John Royden, head of research at wealth manager JM Finn, has done something even rarer than walking on the moon: swim Lake Geneva.

This has been part of his quest to raise money for The Brain Tumour Charity, in memory of his sister, who died of a brain tumour at the age of 32.

So far, he has raised more than £300,000, having also swum the English Channel. Training for the swim, which took place last month, has involved tying himself to trees and swimming against the current in mill ponds. He completed four 10 mile swims as part of the preparation. 

The swim was 42.8 miles in length, and Royden swam constantly for 36 hours, treading water every hour to receive food and drink from a boat. Only seven people have ever completed what is known as the 'ultimate trophy swim’, and Royden is now the eighth. 

He says: “Endurance swimming is not for everyone. The community of us around the world probably comes to 200. But I’m no good at running, and this is a bit off-piste and gets people’s attention.” 

The off-piste nature of his hobby is also reflected in his career prior to JM Finn, the City business with assets under management of £11bn, as he co-founded and subsequently sold a business (ECU) involved in raising mortgage capital for UK homeowners using the yen currency. He has also been a derivatives trader, as well as a consultant to companies seeking to raise new capital on the stock exchange. 

Royden’s first job was as an options trader for Kleinwort Benson in 1985, but within a year he had quit to co-found ECU, which grew to have offices in four countries.

He says: “The business was set up with some of my university friends. One of the opportunities we saw was that interest rates got as high as 12 per cent in the UK for people who wanted a mortgage. So what we did was, we would arrange for homebuyers to borrow the money in Japanese yen, which could be borrowed at very low rates.

"We would then convert the yen to pounds so they could buy the property, but the mortgage they paid was to a Japanese bank at very low interest rates. If the yen got too strong, we would switch to the Swiss franc in order to keep the interest rate low.”

He and his partners sold the business in 1997, just as UK interest rates began their downward trajectory. 

Royden then spent two years studying for an MBA, and doing consultancy work for a variety of businesses, on activity ranging from mergers and acquisitions, to preparing for stock market listings.

He joined JM Finn in 2011, initially as head of fixed income research, before taking over the running of the entire investment research department and jointly managing the company’s in-house fund range, Coleman Street Investments.